21 March, 2015

Blood is thicker than water...or is it?

The old adage that blood is thicker than water runs deep. Many people adhere to it, or at least understand it. But for a whole tranche of other people, this adage has no bearing whatsoever on their personal reality and they struggle to understand what it means. I fully appreciate their point of view.

I am an only child. My parents separated when I was very young. My father left the family home and, once he had gone, I barely saw him again. My mother's mental health has always been poor, which means that we have a fractured and difficult relationship. My contact with other family members was very limited (non-existent on my father's side), and they showed little familial interest in me.

As a result, 'blood is thicker than water' was a meaningless phrase in the context of my childhood. The idea that blood relations mean more that friends was an alien concept, since I had not had the experience of a nurturing family on which I could rely.

I have been lucky as an adult, however. I married into a large family whose members are supportive of one another and who welcomed me with open arms. I gradually learnt that I could trust and rely on these people in a way that was inconceivable with my blood relations. And my children have been raised in this supportive environment. There are two of them and they are extremely close, which is wonderful. But, what is more, they are very close to their paternal grandparents and they love meeting up with their aunts, uncles and cousins. They have a strong sense of family.

I wouldn't wish my early experiences of family on anyone, but they have undeniably given me an insight into a different kind of life. I am glad, in spite of that, to have been able to raise my children in a close, supportive family environment. For them, I guess, the adage that blood is thicker than water rings true.

13 March, 2015


People have very strange attitudes. One of the strangest, I think, is the attitude that people have towards others who are "quiet" or "reserved" or "don't talk much".

To be quiet seems to be construed as a negative thing. Someone who is quiet frequently attracts comments such as: "Are you alright? Only you seem to be so quiet." Interestingly, no one passes comment on  someone who is super-loud. I've never, for example, heard the following: "You're just so loud. Is there something the matter with you?" Or even: "Could you just be quiet for a moment, so that the rest of us can hear ourselves think." The implication, then, is that loud is normal; quiet is abnormal. Loud is good; quiet is bad.

I couldn't agree with this less. My experience is that people who are quiet are far better observers than those who never pipe down; they have a far better sense of what is going on around them; and they are far better judges of people because they actually take the time to listen to what others are saying. You can also be sure that if a quiet person does have something to say, it will be something worth listening to.

Furthermore, in my experience, being quiet has nothing whatsoever to do with lack of confidence. In fact, those people who are quiet are often the most self-confident, steely and determined of people. They are happy with who they are, don't feel the need to hide behind a barrage of meaningless words, and have the strength of character to tackle difficult situations calmly and with dignity.

Rather than denigrating the quality of quietness, we should, in my opinion, be lauding it. We have a lot to learn from such people.